Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Beautiful Boy, Mile 22, Juliet Naked, The Equalizer 2, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, King of Thieves, Assassination Nation, Mandy


Lisa already wrote about the new trailers for The Predator and Zoe.  Here are some of the other trailers that were released last week.

First up, there’s Beautiful Boy.  Based on the memoirs of both David Sheff and his son, Nic, this movie is based on the true story of David’s struggle to understand and deal with his son’s drug addiction.  It stars Oscar nominees Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, and Amy Ryan.  It will be released on October 12th by Amazon Studios, who are hoping that they’ll have the same success with this film that they had with Manchester By The Sea.

And now, to quote the poet Python, for something completely different.  Mile 22 is the latest action film from star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  Mile 22 is due to be released on August 17th.

Also due to be released on August 17th is Juliet, Naked.  This Nick Hornby adaptation is about a rock star (Ethan Hawke) and the couple (Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd) who are obsessed with his music.  We can expect this one to inspire many comparisons to High Fidelity.

On July 20th, Denzel Washington returns as retired CIA assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2.  In the sequel, he’s investigating the death of a friend from the first film.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is the latest fantasy film to be based on a children’s book.  It looks like a change of pace for director Eli Roth, if not star Jack Black, and is set to be released on September 21st.

Also based on a young adult novel is The Hate U Give.  Amanda Stenberg plays Starr, a young African-American woman who finds herself at the center of protest and controversy after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend.  The Hate U Give will be released on October 19th.

King of Thieves is the latest film from The Theory of Everything‘s director, James Marsh.  Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone are over-the-hill thieves.  (Didn’t Caine already do this in Going In Style?)  This British film does not yet have an American release date.

In Assassination Nation, the citizens of suburbia become outraged and violent when a data hack leads to all of their darkest secrets being exposed.  (This would never have happened if they had just taken part in the Annual Purge like they were supposed to.)  Assassination Nation will be released on September 21st.

Finally, in Mandy, Nicolas Cage plays a man who seeks revenge on the cultists and demons that killed the woman he loved.  Mandy will be released on September 14th.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Capote (dir by Bennett Miller)


capote_poster

The first time I ever saw the 2005’s Capote, I thought it was a great film.

I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise.  I love movies about writers and I love biopics and, as the title indicates, Capote was both.  I’m also fascinated by true crime and Capote told the story of how Truman Capote came to write the first true crime book, In Cold Blood.  Add to that, I was (and am) a Philip Seymour Hoffman fan and Capote provided Hoffman with not only a rare starring role but it also won him an overdue Academy Award.  Finally, to top it all off, Capote also dealt with Truman’s friendship with Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Seriously, a film that dealt with the writing of both In Cold Blood and To Kill A Mockingbird!?  How couldn’t I love that?  While everyone else was outraged that Crash beat Brokeback Mountain, I was upset that it beat Capote.

Needless to say, I was really looking forward to rewatching Capote for this review.  But when I actually did sit down and watched it, I was shocked to discover that Capote wasn’t actually the masterpiece that I remembered it being.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  It’s still a good film.  At times, it’s even a great film.  I still think it would have been a more worthy Best Picture winner than Crash.  But still, there seemed to be something missing.  Much as with director Bennett Miller’s most recent film, Foxcatcher, there’s a coldness at the heart of Capote.  One can’t deny its success on a technical level but, at the same time, it keeps the audience at a distance.  In the end, we remains detached observers, admiring the skill of the film without ever getting emotionally invested in it.

Interestingly, the film suggests that the exact opposite happened to Truman Capote while he wrote In Cold Blood.  The film suggests that Capote got so invested in one of the killers at the center of In Cold Blood that the process of writing the book nearly destroyed him.  When we first see Capote, he’s at some social event in New York and he’s amusing his rich friends with charmingly risqué anecdotes about his other rich and famous friends.  As played by Hoffman, Capote is someone who is almost always performing.  It only with his friend Harper Lee and his partner Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood) that he ever lets down his guard long enough to reveal who he actually is, a gay man from the deep South who was fortunate enough to escape.

That’s one reason why Capote grows close to Perry Smith (Clifton Collin, Jr.).  The subjects of In Cold Blood, Smith and Dick Hickcock (Mark Pellegrino) killed the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas.  Capote, who followed the case from their arrest to their eventual execution, becomes obsessed with Smith precisely because he sees Smith, with his dysfunctional background and his overly sensitive nature, as being who Capote could have been if things had gone just a little bit differently in his life.  Miller further makes this point by skillfully juxtaposing scenes of Truman dropping names and telling jokes at New York parties with the grim reality of life and death in Kansas.

Truman finds himself serving as a mentor to Perry.  (Hickcock is neglected by both Capote and the film.)  Of course, Truman’s also a writer and he knows that he needs an ending for his story.  As his editor (played by Bob Balaban, who seems to be destined to play everyone’s editor at some point or another) points out, Smith and Hickcock have to be executed if the book is ever to be completed.  Truman also has to get Perry to finally talk about what happened in the Clutter family farm.  As much as Capote seems to care about Perry, he’s ruthless when it comes to getting material for his book.  The film suggests that Truman Capote got his greatest success at the cost of his soul.

It’s a rather dark movie, which might explain why I was initially so impressed with it.  (I went through a period of time where I thought any movie with a sad ending was a masterpiece.)  Rewatching it, I saw that the film’s triumph was mostly one of casting.  Miller gets some seriously brilliant performances from the cast of Capote.  Yes, Hoffman is great in Capote but so is the entire cast.  Keener and Greenwood are well-cast as the only two people who have the guts to call Truman on his bullshit.  Chris Cooper gives a very Chris Cooperish performance as Alvin Dewey, the no-nonsense lawman who views Capote with a mix of amusement and distrust.  Clifton Collins, Jr. and Mark Pellegrino are both excellent as Smith and Hickcock.  In fact, Pellegrino makes such an impression that you regret the both Capote and the film didn’t spend more time with his character.

As previously stated, Hoffman won Best Actor but Capote lost best picture to Crash.  How Crash beat not just Brokeback Mountain but Capote as well is a mystery that Oscar historians are still trying to unravel.

Film Review: Bridge of Spies (dir by Steven Spielberg)


Bridge_of_Spies_poster

I saw Bridge of Spies last weekend and I’m a little bit surprised that I haven’t gotten around to writing a review until now.  After all, this is not only the latest film from Steven Spielberg but it also stars the universally beloved Tom Hanks and it’s currently being touted as a possible best picture nominee.  (Mark Rylance, who plays an imprisoned spy in this film, is also emerging as a front runner for best supporting actor.)  The screenplay was written by the Coen Brothers.  (Oddly enough, films scripted by the Coens — like Unbroken, for instance — tend to be far more conventional and far less snarky than films actually directed by the Coens.)  Even beyond its impressive pedigree, Bridge of Spies is a historical drama and by now, everyone should know how much I love historical dramas.

And the thing is, I enjoyed Bridge of Spies.  I thought it was a well-made film.  I thought that Tom Hanks was well-cast as an idealistic lawyer who stands up for truth, justice, and the Constitution.  I agreed with the pundits who thought Mark Rylance was award-worthy.  It’s become a bit of a cliché for Amy Ryan to show up as an understanding wife but it’s a role she plays well and she made the most of her scenes with Tom Hanks.  Steven Spielberg knows how to put a good film together.  This really should have been a film about which I rushed home to rave.

And yet, at the same time, I just could not work up that much enthusiasm for Bridge of Spies.  It’s a good film but there’s nothing unexpected about it.  There’s nothing surprising about the film.  Steven Spielberg is one of the most commercially successful directors in history and the American film establishment pretty much orbits around him.  He’s good at what he does and he deserves his success.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a subversive bone in his body.  Bridge of Spies is a lot like his previous Oscar contender, Lincoln.  It’s very well-made.  It’s the epitome of competence.  But there’s not a truly surprising or unexpected moment to be found in the film.

And I have to admit that, even as I enjoyed Bridge of Spies, I still found myself frustrated by just how risk-adverse a film it truly was.  After all, we’re living in the age of Ex Machina, Upstream Color, and Sicario.  Bridge of Spies is a good movie and, in many ways, it provides a very valuable history lesson.  (The film’s best moments were the one that contrasted the U.S. with the cold desolation of communist-controlled East Germany.)  But, overall, it just didn’t make a huge impression on me.  It was just a a little bit too safe in its approach.

The Cold War Relived Through Bridge of Spies


BridgeofSpies

Lisa Marie is not the only history nerd in this here place. I don’t think it was a coincidence that TSL’s co-founders ended up being both history nerds. We both love films the depict historical events. Some of them turn out to be great while some end up on the trash heap.

One filmmaker who has made a career late in his life of making historical films is Steven Spielberg. The same one who gave us great blockbusters in the scifi, thriller and fantasy genres has also given us some excellent historical films such as Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Munich and Lincoln.

We have the first trailer for Spielberg’s latest film which is based on the real-life events surrounding the 1960 U-2 spy plane incident where American pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down while on a mission over the Soviet Union and was subsequently swapped back into US custody for a Soviet spy that the Americans were holding.

Bridge of Spies showcases the events which led to that swap and how contentious the negotiations had been before it finally came about. Everyone knows the Cuban Missile Crisis put the world very close to nuclear annihilation, but what many don’t know is how the Gary Powers Incident also pushed the two nuclear powers very close to the brink.

Bridge of Spies is set for an OCt. 16, 2015 release date…just in time for the start of Lisa Marie’s favorite film season: Awards Season.

Film Review: Devil’s Knot (dir by Atom Egoyan)


After having spent close to a year hearing only negative things about it, I finally watched Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot last night.  On the basis of what a lot of critics had said about the film, I have to admit that I was mostly watching it to see if I needed to include it on my upcoming list of the 16 worst films of 2014.

But you know what?

Devil’s Knot really isn’t a bad film.  It’s just an extremely unnecessary one.

Devil’s Knot opens with a title card that reads, “Based on a true story.”  Honestly, the title card could have just as easily read, “Based on a true story and if you doubt it, there’s four other movies you can watch.”  The trial, conviction, and subsequent imprisonment of the West Memphis Three is perhaps the most famous miscarriage of justice in recent history precisely because so many documentaries have been made about it.  Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost Part Three are two of the most disturbing true crime documentaries ever made.

(As for Paradise Last Part Two, it displays a stunning lack of self-awareness as it attempts to prove the guilt of John Mark Byers by using many of the same techniques that were used to convict the West Memphis Three.  The less said about it, the better.)

The story is so well-known that I almost feel like retelling it would be like taking the time to inform you that George Washington was our first president.  But here goes — in 1993, 3 eight year-old boys were murdered in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas.  Three teenagers were arrested for the crime and, on the flimsiest of evidence, were convicted.  As is seen in the documentaries, their conviction had more to do with community hysteria and paranoia than anything else.  The supposed leader of the West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, was accused of being a Satanist.  Why?  Mostly because he wore black clothing.

Eventually — and largely as a result of the documentaries made about the case — the West Memphis Three would be freed from prison.  (However, their convictions would still legally stand, meaning that their exoneration would be limited to the court of public opinion.)  Devil’s Knot, however, doesn’t deal with any of that, beyond a lengthy scroll of “this is what happened after the movie” information that rolls up the screen after the final scene.  Instead, Devil’s Knot deals with the first trial of the West Memphis Three and the small town atmosphere of fear and hysteria that led to them being convicted in the first place.

And — though the film is surprisingly conventional when you consider the reputation of director Atom Egoyan — it’s all fairly well-done.  As a former resident of and frequent visitor to Arkansas, I was happy to see that Egoyan didn’t indulge in as many stereotypes as I feared he would.  (One need only watch the self-important Northern activists in Paradise Lost Two to see the attitude that I feared Egoyan would bring to the project.)  Reese Witherspoon is perfectly cast as the mother of one of the murdered boys.  Kevin Durand is properly intimidating at John Mark Byers.  Even Colin Firth manages to make for a convincing Arkansan.

But, ultimately, Devil’s Knot just feels so unnecessary.  It doesn’t bring anything new to the story and there’s ultimately nothing here that you couldn’t have learned from the original Paradise Lost.

Probably the best thing that I can say about Devil’s Knot is that it’s better than Paradise Lost Part Two.

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For May


Whiplash

Whiplash

Of course, it’s way too early for me or anyone else to try to predict who and what will be nominated for an Academy Award in 2015.  However, that’s not stopping me from trying to do so on a monthly basis!

Below are my updated predictions for May.

You can read my predictions for April here and my March predictions here.

Best Picture

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Wild

I’ve dropped Get On Up from my list of best picture nominees, mostly because the film’s trailer is just too bland.  As for some of the other films that some of my fellow bloggers are predicting will be contenders: The Grand Budapest Hotel may very well deserve a nomination but it may have come out too early in the year.  Gone Girl may be too much of a genre piece while Inherent Vice may not be enough of one. Big Eyes would theoretically benefit from the fact that both Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams would appear to be perfectly cast but, after his last few live action films, I don’t have much faith in Tim Burton. As for Into The Woods, my instinct says that Rob Marshall’s latest musical film adaptation is going to have more in common with Nine than with Chicago.

Best Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman

Angelina Jolie for Unbroken

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

Jean-Marc Vallee for Wild

No changes here.  I nearly dropped Angelina Jolie from the list, just because she’s being so aggressively hyped and early hype always seems to lead to later disappointment.  If I had dropped her, I would have replaced her with Christopher Nolan for Interstellar.

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

Christoph Waltz in Big Eyes

I dropped Chadwick Boseman from my list of predictions, again based on the blandness of the trailer for Get On Up.  I also moved Ralph Fiennes down to best supporting actor.  In their place: Joaquin Phoenix and Christoph Waltz.

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Big Eyes

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight

Reese Whitherspoon in Wild

Michelle Williams in Suite francaise

I dropped Jessica Chastain from the list and replaced her with Michelle Williams.  Why?  There’s really no big reason, beyond the fact that I know more about the role Williams is playing in Suite francaise than I do about the role Chastain is playing in A Most Violent Year.  If The Fault In Our Stars was being released in October (as opposed to next month), I would have probably found room for Shailene Woodley on this list.

Best Supporting Actor

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

Martin Sheen in Trash

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

I dropped both Robert Duvall and Channing Tatum from this list, largely because I don’t know enough about Duvall’s character in The Judge and because I have a feeling that, when it comes to Foxcatcher, the Academy will either nominate Ruffalo or Tatum but not both of them.  My first replacement is Martin Sheen for Trash, largely because Sheen has never been nominated for an Oscar and the role of an activist priest seems to be perfect for him.  My second replacement is Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Originally, I was predicting Fiennes would get a best actor nod but — as is explained in this article over at AwardsWatch — a pretty good case can be made for Fiennes getting a supporting nod instead.

Literally minutes before clicking publish on this post, I also decided to remove Christopher Walken and replace him with Ethan Hawke.  With three nominations already — one for acting and two for writing — Hawke seems to be popular with Academy voters and he always seems to do his best work for Richard Linklater.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Viola Davis in Get On Up

Marcia Gay Harden in Magic In The Moonlight

Kristen Scott Thomas in Suite francaise

Meryl Streep in Into The Woods

Two changes: I dropped Amy Ryan and replaced her with Kristen Scott Thomas.  Again, it’s mostly just because I know more about the role Scott Thomas is playing than I do about Ryan’s role.  I also, shortly before posting this, decided to remove Kiera Knightley and replace her with Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.

So, those are my predictions for this month!  Agree?  Disagree?  Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

Boyhood

Boyhood

 

 

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For April


michael-keaton-birdman

As I explained in March, I’m going to be doing a monthly series of posts in which I’m going to attempt to predict which 2014 films will be Oscar-nominated.

Obviously, at this point of the year, the nominations listed below are less like predictions and more like random guesses.  However, if nothing else, these early predictions will be good for a laugh or two once the actual Oscar race becomes a bit more clear.

Below, you’ll find my predictions for April.  Check out my predictions for March here.

Best Picture

Birdman

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

Get On Up

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

Unbroken

Whiplash

Wild

Best Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman

Angelina Jolie for Unbroken

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

Jean-Marc Vallee for Wild

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Big Eyes

Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight

Reese Whitherspoon in Wild

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher

Christopher Walken in Jersey Boys

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis in Get On Up

Marcia Gay Harden in Magic In The Moonlight

Kiera Knightley in The Imitation Game

Amy Ryan in Birdman

Meryl Streep in Into The Woods

Meryl-Streep-Into-The-Woods